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Introducing Kerry-Anne Jones, Executive Director of South West Arts

This month we introduce Kerry-Anne Jones, Executive Director at South West Arts.

Be it because of the travelling she gets to do across the extraordinary range of landscapes of the region, the influential impact that the various indigenous cultures have on the way they live, love and respect their land, or because she works with innovative people to bring to life creative projects all over the region, Kerry-Anne sheds some light on why she believes she has “the best job in the world!”

 

Tell us about your role at South West Arts 

Well, I have the best job in the world! I get to work with creative and innovative people right across our region and it doesn’t matter if I’m in Hay or Hillston, Berrigan or Balranald, I love the places, the landscape and the people of this region.

The hardest thing about being in lock down has been that I haven’t been able to travel the region and catch up with all of the extraordinary people that run the community galleries, our artists, the fantastic network of people that work in our local councils, the museum volunteers, the team at the Conservatorium of Music or the teachers in our schools.  I routinely travel between 60,000 to 70,000km each year around the region so to say I’m feeling a little tied down is an understatement.

 

Can you describe the arts and culture scene of the South West and how it may vary from each location and indigenous clan across the region? 

The South West Region of NSW is classified as either rural or remote. Our largest community is Deniliquin with a population of around 7000, the next largest is Moama with about 5,500 people then it goes down from there with towns like Hay, Balranald, Finley  and Tocumwal with populations around the 2000. The remaining towns and villages range from a few hundred to just 20. The 35,000 people that live in this region are spread out over 78,0000 sq km.  This is why I drive a lot!

With this geography comes varied landscapes and cultures; with the majestic Murray River as the region’s southern border comes vast red gum forests, wetlands and National Parks and the tourism hot spots of Cobram-Barooga, Echuca-Moama, Swan Hill and Robinvale-Euston. To the west, central and north of the region we have the huge, flat plains that are so flat and unobstructed you can actually see the curvature of the earth on the horizon. This part of the region is blessed with extraordinary landscapes and ancient indigenous cultures.  The traditional owners have been sharing their history and their passion for the land in places like Mungo – the home of Mungo Man and Mungo Lady, the oldest known human remains (42,000 years old); Barmah forest – the largest redgum forest in the world and home to Yorta Yorta nations with a documented connection to country of over 30,000 years; Yanga – the traditional tribal areas the Muthi Muthi people and considered to be of National environmental significance; and Mawonga – one of the largest Indigenous protected areas in NSW and an important place for teaching learning, connection and significant ancient rock art.

The Edwards and Murrumbidgee Rivers connect the rest of the region with a strong sense of place thanks to the Indigenous cultures that have existed along their path for thousands of years. There are eleven traditional owner groups across the South West Region: Yorta Yorta, Wemba Wemba, Muthi Muthi, Baraba Baraba, Wadi Wadi, Nari Nari, Madi Madi, Yitha Yotha, Wiradjuri, Paakantji and Ngiyampaa Wangaaypuan all of whom have influenced how we live, love and respect the landscapes in which we live.

 

South West Arts is the process of launching CoronaMoveOver – Can you tell us about this project and shed some light on how artists and arts organisations in the South West region adapting to these uncertain times?

CoronaMoveOver is an online platform aimed at keeping arts and culture happening across the region during lock down. Our focus was intended to share what our many creative colleagues are doing across the region and provide inspiration and support to artists, arts and cultural organisations and community audiences. However, like most organisations, we have found the online platform can provide a long-term solution to connecting audiences, providing opportunities and sharing information right across the region.

CoronaMoveOver will have a new name going forward and will link to our new and exciting youth and education programs, Creative Kids opportunities, workshops and the soon to be launched, youth community radio station THE END FM.

I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone and social media with artists and arts organisations across the region over the last couple of months and most have taken the opportunity to get those little tidy-up and sort-thing- out jobs completed, spend time being creative and thinking about the future of their arts practice.  We are a resilient region, evident by the way we have responded to crippling drought and now the Covid-19 Pandemic.  I know we will continue together to find innovative and creative opportunities and solutions to the ups and downs as they present themselves.

 

Despite cancellations and the postponing of programs and events, what are some of the key highlights/events/projects that South West Arts are working on and looking forward to at the moment?

THE END FM, youth run, youth led community radio station will be launching soon along with creative industry training and skills development opportunities from our new Education Hub. Our new Art Studio will soon be up and running with workshops and children’s activities being provided virtually and face-to-face once we can safely emerge from lock down.

The program will support much need Creative Industry education and career pathways for the regions youth which, until now, have not been available within the region.

We are excited to be able to connect directly with artists and mentors from across the region who now won’t have to travel to be a part of this ongoing program.  Balranald Council has just been granted Stronger Country Community Funding to develop their Creative Learning Centre adjacent to the Balranald Gallery. This platform will enable us to better support the Gallery and Council with their youth and creative learning programs.

As part of CoronaMoveOver we are helping local galleries, museums and arts organisations to set up their own websites. Volunteers from each of the organisations will be trained on how to manage and update their websites themselves and connect into a virtual creative network across the entire region.